Archive for April, 2008

Educational Market Trips

Every trip the the market can be fun and educational for the little ones. Even tiny babies (assuming they are awake) can benefit from the learning possibilities while you get your grocery shopping done. Here are some tips for making your next trip to the market (or any store for that matter) fun and educational.


  • Show them their world
  • Introduce them to different shapes and colors: Red apples, round oranges, square boxes for example.
  • Keep wipes/hand sanitizer on you or within easy reach, and if your baby is old enough, let him touch different things and feel the different textures: smooth cucumbers, bumpy squash. (Make sure baby keeps things out of her mouth.)
  • Toddlers

  • Have them him and count.
  • Let her count the pears as you put them in the bag for example.
  • Continue talking with him about colors, shapes and sizes. Ask: which is bigger: a grape or a grapefruit?
  • Have her find letters on signs, boxes and wrappings.
  • Play the “I Spy” game, with older toddlers.
  • If your toddler is a walker, opposed to one who sits in the cart, let them pick some things out themselves (or go with an older sibling to do so.)
  • Now is a good time too (for older toddlers), to introduce the concept of money and that you have to pay for the things in the store before you leave with them.
  • School-aged

  • Combine what she’s learning in school with the trip to the market. If she’s studying geography for example, talk about where some things come from…bananas from Chile, oranges from Florida for example.
  • Talk about cooking with him and what the ingredients are for a ________.
  • Have her try to figure out how much the groceries will cost.
  • Have him pay, accept and count the change. (This means of course, that you’re using cash instead of a credit/debit card.)
  • Use coupons/store bonus card and have her figure out what the savings will be.
  • If he’s taking a foreign language (or you speak one at home) practice vocabulary in the foreign language about things in the store.
  • Have her guess how many bags it will take to pack all of the groceries (for a large shopping trip).
  • Discuss with him why you’re making the choices that you do as a shopper. (For example: Less expensive? Brand loyalty? Eco-friendly? You have a coupon for it?
  • Talk about why some things are taxed and others are not?
  • These are just some ways that you can turn a trip to the market into an engaging, fun and educational experience, foster communication and teach your child about their world. Come up with your own to add that work for your family.

    Posted in Parenting, Lifestyles, Activities, School and Learning, Smart Buying, Child Education, Guest Blogger | No Comments »

    Beyond the Sandwhich part3

    In this third installment of Beyond the Sandwich, we’re looking at lamb.

    This meal is ideal for the day after your holiday lamb leftovers and when you might want something lighter.

    Mediterranean Lamb Salad

    Romaine lettuce
    Field greens
    Greek olives
    Spanish Olives (with or without pimientos)
    Fresh garlic
    Fresh basil (not the dried flakes)
    Burpless cucumbers
    Feta cheese
    Greek vinaigrette (or other vinaigrette of choice)
    Leftover lamb sliced thin
    Cracked pepper (optional)

    Wash the tomatoes and cucumbers
    Slice tomatoes in eighths and the cucumbers into thin slices and then in half
    Cover the tomatoes and cucumbers with the dressing, add 1/2 t of fresh garlic, cover and chill during remaining steps

    Wash and drain all of the greens
    Slice about 4 long leaves romaine in small bite-sized pieces
    Add the field greens to the romaine and toss together gently
    Add the olives–about 1/4 of each (or more to your desire)
    Add the feta and chilled marinating cucumbers and tomatoes (include liquid)
    Toss all of the above together to cover all leaves and olives lightly (add more dressing if necessary)

    Lay the above into a bed on plates.
    Wash and pat dry the basil.
    Gently lay the fresh basil in the center of the plated mixture. (Have fun with it and make a design with the basil leaves.)
    Lay the sliced lamb on top of the basil and serve.

    Posted in Uncategorized, Cooking, Holidays, Healthy Eating, Guest Blogger | No Comments »

    The Family Computer: Cleaning

    You can clean your computer. No, don’t break out the sponges! Vacuuming is a great way to make sure you get the most dust out of your computer, resulting in better connections.

    A hose and brush attachment are the best tools for the vacuuming. The soft brush end will loosen dust, allowing the vacuum to remove more. If your machine has a high and low setting, use the high setting for all of the open air holes around the computer tower. If you are familiar with your computer, you can remove the tower cover and carefully vacuum inside of the case, being cautious to not disturb wire connections.

    If you live in an area with a lot of dust, such as on a dirt road or you have a gravel driveway, do this once a week at least.

    For cleaning the keyboard, alcohol and a cotton swab work well. Turn off the computer, then dip the swab into a small amount of alcohol (normal rubbing alcohol). Clean each key with the swab. You can also use the vaccum and brush attqachment to remove any dust and debris. Turn the keyboard upside down, vacuum, then lie down and vacuum again.

    You can use wipes on the monitor that are safe for electronics. The same wipes can be used on the entrie computer, just avoid power connections and make sure the computer is not connected to a power supply during cleaning.

    Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

    Computer Games:Virtual Lives

    If you have not heard of Second Life, it is not surprising. Most of the popular video games that people are very familiar with are on gaming consoles such as Xbox, Playstation, and Wii. Even if someone does not have a computer, these gaming systems are known.

    But virtual reality games such as WarCraft and Second Life are very popular online. These are not virtual reality in the sense that you need special goggles or headphones, but virtual worlds. With Second Life you can build what is called an avatar and it can look like virtually anything you can imagine. The most popular avatars are human and human-like.

    Second Life has received a lot of bad press due to the availability of sex in cyber form. The game is open to people 18 years or older and yes, you can find quite a bit of sex if you look for it. Sometimes if you are not looking for it. For those who wish to avoid the sexual overtones, there are a lot of PG rated sections open.

    People often go to Second Life to escape from their ‘First Life’ or RL (real life) as it is known on Second Life. They build friendships, romances, and even commercial empires. The systems uses cash, much like real life, but there the dollar (or euro, or pound,) is the Second Life Linden. Lindens can be purchased through the game’s main site, on the game at exchanges, or you can get a virtual job and make lindens.

    I have visited Second Life and found it to be very interesting. You can meet people from all walks of life, all over the world. Unlike chat rooms and instant messaging, your avatars speak ‘face to face’. It gives the meetings and conversations a new life and depth.

    There are pros and cons to any online virtual world which include finding yourself addicted to the ‘life’ you build. In moderation the game is fun, offering new ways to express yourself and meet others. In a recent discussion with another Second Life Member, ‘Brett‘, he pointed out that the virtual world and romances built are a wonderful outlet for people who may not have a way to leave their homes. People with phobias, those who are handicapped, or those who just have very bad social skills can become ‘new’ people in this world.

    I agree with ‘Brett’. Though I have the opinion that all issues can be overcome to allow most people to incorporate themselves into the real world, Second Life can be a learning experience for those who need help interacting.

    Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

    Take the 4-point plastics pledge

    Probably everyone has seen that one scene from The Graduate where during the Benjamin’s party, one of his parent’s friends says something to the effect of: “I’m going to tell you one word about the future. Plastics.” Many of us even remember the old commercial sponsored by the American Chemistry Council that stated: “Plastics Make It Possible.” For years we’ve come to rely on the convenience, portability and “safety” of plastics.

    Then, we got a collective environmental conscience and realized that plastics were filling our landfills and destroying the planet.

    Now, we know that certain plastics contain Bisphenol-A a possible endocrine disruptor and hormonal disruptor as it mimics the female hormone estrogen.

    It is in many items that we use daily and consider safe: from baby bottles to sports bottles, the linings of metal food cans, and in nearly any take-out container that isn’t foil or a paper product. The least safe plastic items are those labeled 3, 6 and 7 and their unsafe properties increase with heating from the dishwasher and microwave. A recent report by Catherine Zandonella, M.P.H. in the Green Guide states that “the plastics industry says it is harmless, … a growing number of scientists are concluding, from some animal tests, that exposure to BPA in the womb raises the risk of certain cancers, hampers fertility and could contribute to childhood behavioral problems such as hyperactivity. …[And] ninety-five percent of Americans were found to have the chemical in their urine in a 2004 biomonitoring study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” The company asserts that the levels of BPA found in the items we use daily are safe, and are only unsafe at high doses. Zandonella’s report continues that according to Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., a developmental biologist at the University of Missouri, “low doses that are now proving to cause a myriad of harmful effects in animals, including chromosomal damage in female egg cells and an increase in embryonic death in mice. A follow-up to this is a study indicating a relationship of BPA blood levels to miscarriages in Japanese women.” While the FDA sees no reason to change its 2003 opinion on the safety of BPA in conjunction with food use, they have been wrong before. In contrast, in December 2007, the Center to the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction issued a detailed report about BPA and its implications in humans, concluding that more study on the effect of BPA in humans is needed.

    Hmmm. Some experts say BPA is perfectly okay; others, not so much.
    So what are we to do?

    After a thorough check of my cabinets for anything labeled 3, 6 or 7, I was happy to find that all of my son’s sippy cups were labeled 2. But that was just the cups themselves. What about the lid–the part that he actually sucks on? What about the ones that have been saved by relatives with toddlers before us and passed down to us and clearly show the wear and tear of little toddler nibbles? Are the ones that are a decade old (and clearly flaking) still safe? There was no way to know…as neither the contemporary lids nor the older sippy cups had any numbers on them. Am I to assume that because the newer cups have a “2″ imprinted on them that the lids are also twos?

    You see. More questions.

    I checked my son’s bowls and other plastic that we use for food regularly as well. No numbers there either. Luckily, I never heat food in plastic, but what about transferring hot food to a plastic bowl?

    As you can see, the new information only leads to more questions, concerns and decisions about food container choices.

    While on one hand I don’t want to give my toddler a glass bowl…it is much easier to take care of a cut than potential future problems that could affect his internal functions.

    I put my mind at ease with the intent to make some behavioral changes and wiser shopping choices. Luckily, I didn’t have to grapple with how to dispose of any threes, sixes or sevens properly.

    But later in the day, the question arose again. I was at my favorite local cafe, where as I sipped my steaming coffee from its cardboard-lined cardboard cup, I stared down at the number six on the lid. How many times have I sucked on a hot liquid in one of these lids in my lifetime? How many times have I consumed hot food from a number 6 container? Sure, my exposure has been minimal according to the FDA and some scientists, but the questions still lurk.

    What about you and your family? It makes you too, wonder now, doesn’t it?

    Armed with this new information, I am willing to take a four-point pledge for myself and for my family and make a behavioral change to reduce my (our) exposure to BPA.

  • A pledge to shop smarter and avoid purchasing plastic products labeled with the numbers 3, 6 or 7.
  • A pledge to avoid take-out and establishments that use plastic containers labeled with 3, 6 or 7.
  • A pledge that when point two is absolutely unavoidable, to avoid personal exposure to such plastics that have come into contact with heat.
  • A pledge to use sustainable and safe reusable products.
  • Will you too take the pledge?

    Feel free to make it public and claim the pledge in the comments field.

    Posted in Health, Daily Living, Health Care, Healthy Living, Poison, Smart Buying, Guest Blogger, News Items | 1 Comment »

    Ten Gas Saving Tips

    If you live in the US, then you are feeling the bite from rising gas prices. Nearly everything purchased has seen a hike in cost due to the rising cost of gas. Since prices are not going to come down any time soon, why don’t we discuss how to save gas, which in turn saves you money.

    1. Keep your car tuned. A tune up can reduce the amount of gas used.

    2. Have your air filter checked and changed if needed during oil changes.

    3. Keep your tires inflated properly.

    4. Clean out your trunk. Extra weight = more gas used.

    5. Slow down. Wind resistance increases as you go faster, using more gas.

    6. Don’t idle. If you aren’t moving, you’re wasting gas. So don’t idle at the curb, store, or friend’s house!

    7. Combine errands, get to know your area. Try to shop and do other errands in the closest proximity possible. Saving a few cents on groceries by driving 20 miles out of your way (even 10) still causes you to spend more on gas.

    8. Do not drive all over a parking lot looking for the closest spot to the store. It wastes gas, just take the first one open. You save time, gas, and get a little exercise.

    9. If possible, combine shopping trips with your neighbors. Take turns driving each week (or your preferred schedule) and chip in on gas.

    10. Walk when possible. Again, get to know your area. A 30 minute walk is free no matter how you look at it.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Read Labels When Shopping–Always

    You’re thinking: I don’t have time to read the labels, grocery shopping is chaotic enough. You’re envisioning what that trip to the market will be like if you stop to read every label: The six-year-old will decide to ride the cart backwards, the three-year-old will start screaming that he must have Cocoa Puffs now (when you don’t even normally buy them) and the darling baby three aisles over who is wailing has caused you to let down, which is making your sweetheart in the sling wake up. So maybe that’s not what your trip to the market is like, but in some way, we can all relate; so stopping to check every label before tossing an item into the cart is probably the last thing on your mind. But wait, the cost of not reading the labels could be dangerous to your family.

    In July 2007 the FDA issued a warning about and recall of counterfeit toothpaste being sold in Canada and the United States. The toothpaste was recalled because it contains diethylene glycol (DEG), a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze and as a solvent. DEG is a central nervous system depressant and potent kidney and liver toxin and as a solvent. The toothpaste was made by Chinese manufacturers and was sold primarily to bargain retail outlets, the report said. The Among the brands counterfeited was Colgate, a name we know and trust. Since the initial warning, the toothpaste has not been removed from all shelves and has been found on the shelves of smaller stores and pharmacies as recently as this month–eight months later.

    The differences in the real and counterfeit products are not easy to spot, especially at first glance and when you’re in the middle of either a quick run to pick something up or under the gun of making it through the market before the kids completely meltdown.

    The labels of the counterfeit toothpaste read that they are Made in South Africa, sanctioned by the South African Dental Association, or have typographical errors on them.

    So, despite the chaos that a trip to the market can bring, be vigilant and read the labels carefully, even of the products that you think are ones that you know and trust.

    Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »